Oncologist Appointment #1 – Ovarian Cancer Diagnosis and Treatment Plan

I’d prepared myself for how I thought the appointment would go – I asked Anne anything and everything, she and Chris both knew I was a nervous wreck and having been through this several times before, they’d done the best they could in preparing me. Deep breath, I’ve got this…I had my pen, paper and questions ready to go.

As the resident entered the room, I realized I wasn’t ready for this…she looked at me, said “I’m sorry…” and the tears started rolling down (in fact, they are right now, just thinking about it). They must be used to this, because she was very kind in reassuring me that this was a normal reaction and it was okay. The only thing I could get out was “It’s really bad, isn’t it?”. Which, she couldn’t answer for various reasons – the main one being that she’s not the doctor, she’s a resident.

Enter Dr. Hagemann, or as she introduced herself… “Hi, I’m Andrea. I’m so sorry we’re meeting under these circumstances.” She has the most compassionate demeanor about her…soft-spoken, kind, and reassuring, with a true desire to help. I use the word “compassionate” because it fits her to a “T” – literally, the word means to suffer together and I can tell you to this day, every time I see her she validates that I’m not fighting this fight alone…that she’s right there beside me through this entire journey. I couldn’t have asked for a better fit – we hug every time we see each other and I don’t think I’ve ever had that experience with another doctor prior to this, and probably never will again.

She reviewed everything with me, step by step.   In regards to the question I asked earlier – how bad is it – she couldn’t really answer this. The type of cancer I had was an aggressive, Grade 3 tumor- https://ocrfa.org/patients/about-ovarian-cancer/treatment/staging-and-grading/– the highest grade Ovarian Cancer tumor one can have, it’s more likely to metastasize than the others. In order to determine the staging (which I will not discuss, I see it as merely a number, but it was caught in the early stages, so my prognosis is good, we are very positive about being able to use the word “cured” one day), I had to undergo a fairly large procedure – I would be having a total hysterectomy with salpingo-oophorectomy (http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/ovarian-cancer/expert-answers/ovarian-cancer/faq-20057780), removal of all lymph nodes from the stomach down and then they’d be performing a very detailed examination of all other organs in my pelvic and stomach region – total time from start to finish, 4.5 hours. Three weeks after the surgery I’d begin chemotherapy, and yes, it was the kind that makes you lose your hair.

The only way to determine what treatment plan we would take, exactly how many chemo sessions or if I’d need radiation in addition chemo, and in order for me to have a fighting chance against this, this is the path we’d need to take. At 36 years old, a hysterectomy wasn’t something I had foreseen in my near future…let alone in the next 4 days. At this time, I’m not to the point where I feel like I can honestly discuss openly what went through my head (let’s be honest, what still goes through my head from time to time), but I will eventually and plan to do so at that time.

After going through everything, I had a comment, followed immediately by a question – I have two small children, I need to get whatever might be left in there out, how quickly are you going to perform surgery? Answer was simple – I’d like to do so this week, I don’t want to wait until next week.

Now it was time to bring my parents back – 2.5 hours in total is what she spent with us. Without batting an eye or sounding annoyed, Dr. Hagemann discussed everything with my parents that she’d just gone through with me and let them ask any and all questions they may have as well.

Surgery was scheduled for January 27th, start time of 7:30am and all pre-op work would take place the following day. Yes, everything happened that quickly.   The good thing about all of this, I didn’t have much time to think about it or fully grasp what was about to occur. To this date, I’m still moving from appointment to appointment very quickly…I had a research analyst ask me this past week if I was doing okay or if I was feeling overwhelmed by the pace of everything. I was honest, it’s a lot to take in, but I’d really rather not have a lot of time to think about everything…am I overwhelmed, absolutely, but who wouldn’t be?

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